- Thomas Brown (philosopher)
Thomas Brown Born 9 January 1778
Died 2 April 1820(aged 42)
Brompton, London, England
Nationality Scottish Occupation philosopher
He was born at Kirkmabreck, Kirkcudbright, where his father Rev. Samuel Brown was parish clergyman. He was a wide reader and an eager student. Educated at several schools in London, he went to the University of Edinburgh in 1792, where he attended Dugald Stewart's moral philosophy class, but does not appear to have completed his course. After studying law for a time he took up medicine; his graduation thesis De Somno was well received. But his strength lay in metaphysical analysis, as was shown in his answer to the objections raised against the appointment of Sir John Leslie to the mathematical professorship (1805). Leslie, a follower of David Hume, was attacked by the clerical party as a sceptic and an infidel, and Brown took the opportunity to defend Hume's doctrine of causality as in no way inimical to religion. His defence, at first only a pamphlet, became in its third edition a lengthy treatise entitled Inquiry into the Relation of Cause and Effect, and is a fine specimen of Brown's analytical faculty.
In 1806 Brown became a medical practitioner in partnership with James Gregory (1753–1821), but, though successful, preferred literature and philosophy. After twice failing to gain a professorship in the university, he was invited, during an illness of Dugald Stewart in the session of 1808-1809, to act as his substitute, and during the following session he undertook much of Stewart's work. The students received him with enthusiasm, due partly to his splendid rhetoric and partly to the novelty and ingenuity of his views. In 1810 he was appointed as colleague to Stewart, a position which he held for the rest of his life. He wrote his lectures at high pressure, and devoted much time to the editing and publication of the numerous poems which he had written at various times during his life. He was also preparing an abstract of his lectures as a handbook for his class. His health, never strong, gave way under the strain of his work. He was advised to take a trip to London, where he died.
His friend and biographer, David Welsh (1793–1845), superintended the publication of his text-book, the Physiology of the Human Mind, and his Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind was published by his successors, John Stewart and the Rev. E Milroy. The latter was received with great enthusiasm both in England (where it reached its 19th edition) and in America; but later criticism lessened its popularity and it is now almost forgotten.
Brown's philosophy occupies an intermediate place between the earlier Scottish school and the later analytical or associational psychology, to which he really belonged. He still retained a small quantum of intuitive beliefs, and did not appear to see that the very existence of these could not be explained by his theory of mental action. This accounts for the comparative neglect into which his works have now fallen. They did not furnish a coherent system, and the doctrines which were then new have since been worked out with greater consistency and clearness.
Brown's other work included a criticism of Erasmus Darwin's Zoonomia (1798), and he was one of the first contributors to the Edinburgh Review, in the second number of which he published a criticism of Immanuel Kant's philosophy, based entirely on Villers's French account of it. Among his poems, which are modelled on Pope and Akenside and rather commonplace, may be mentioned: Paradise of Coquettes (1814); Wanderer in Norway (1815); Warfiend (1816); Bower of Spring (1817); Agnes (1818); Emily (1819); a collected edition in 4 vols. appeared in 1820. His poetry, though graceful, lacked force, and is now forgotten.
For a severe criticism of Brown's philosophy, see Sir William Hamilton's Discussions and Lectures on Metaphysics; and for a high estimate of his merits, see John Stuart Mill's Examination of Hamilton. See also D Welsh's Account of the Life and Writings, etc. (1825); James McCosh's Scottish Philosophy, pp. 317–337. One German writer who seems to have known anything of Brown is Beneke, who found in him anticipations of some of his own doctrines. See Die neue Psychologie, pp. 320–330. Another, Schopenhauer, wrote, in 1844:
Quite recently Thomas Brown has taught ... in his extremely tedious book Inquiry into the Relation of Cause and Effect (4th ed., 1835), ... that knowledge springs from an innate, intuitive, and instinctive conviction; he is therefore essentially on the right path. However, the crass ignorance is unpardonable by which, in this book of 476 pages, 130 of which are devoted to the refutation of Hume, no mention at all is made of Kant, who cleared up the matter seventy years ago.
— The World as Will and Representation, Vol. II, Chapter IV
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J. M. Dent & Sons; New York, E. P. Dutton.
- Anon, "Letters from Edinburgh", North American Review and Miscellaneous Journal, Vol.1, (1815), pp. 183–195.
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- Anon [Brown, T.], "Belsham's Philosophy of the Mind", Edinburgh Review, Vol.1, No.2, (January 1803), pp. 475–485.
- Anon [Brown, T.], "Lettre de Charles Villers à Georges Cuvier, de l'Institut National de France, & c. A Letter from Charles Villers to Georges Cuvier, Member of the National Institute of France, on a New Theory of the Brain, as the immediate Organ of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties; by Dr. Gall of Vienna. Metz. 1802", Edinburgh Review, Vol.2, No.3, (April 1803), pp. 147–160.
- Anon [Brown, T.], "Viller's Philosophy of Kant", Edinburgh Review, Vol.1, No.2, (January 1803), pp. 253–280.
- Blakey, R., "Dr. Thomas Brown", pp. 25–33 in Blakey, R., History of the Philosophy of Mind: Embracing the Opinions of all Writers on Mental Science from the Earliest Period to the Present Time; Volume IV: From the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day, Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, (London), 1850.
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- Brown, T., Inquiry into the Relation of Cause and Effect (Fourth Edition), H.G. Bohn, (London), 1835. Reissued with an introduction by Rollin, B.E., Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints, (Delmar), 1977.
- Brown, T., Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind (Nineteenth Edition), William Tegg & Co., (London), 1858.
- Brown, T., Sketch of a System of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, Part First: Comprehending the Physiology of the Mind, Bell & Bradfute, (Edinburgh), 1820.
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- Dixon, T., From Passions to Emotions: The Creation of a Secular Psychological Category, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge), 2003.
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- Gilman, S., Contributions to Literature; Descriptive, Critical, Humorous, Biographical, Philosophical, and Poetical, Crosby, Nichols, and Company, (Boston), 1856.
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- Haven, J., Mental Philosophy: Including the Intellect, Sensibilities, and Will, Gould and Lincoln, (Boston), 1862.
- Henry, C.S., "Brown", pp. 171–190 in Henry, C.S., An Epitome of the History of Philosophy: Being the Work Adopted by the University of France for Instruction in the Colleges and High Schools. Translated from the French, with Additions, and a Continuation of the History from the Time of Reid to the Present Day, in Two Volumes: Volume II, Harper and Brothers, (New York), 1869.
- James, W., "The Association of Ideas", pp. 79–90 in James, W., Talks to Teachers on Psychology: And to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals, Longmans, Green and Co, (London), 1932. [Reprint; original 1899.]
- Kallich, M., The Association of Ideas and Critical Theory in Eighteenth-Century England, Mouton, (The Hague), 1970.
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- Klein, D.B., A History of Scientific Psychology, Its Origins and Philosophical Backgrounds, Routledge & Kegan Paul, (London), 1970.
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- Lewes, G.H., Problems of Life and Mind, First Series: The Foundations of a Creed, Volume II, (Third Edition), Trübner, and Co, (London), 1875.
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- Martin, T., The Instructed Vision: Scottish Common Sense Philosophy and the Origins of American Fiction (Indiana University Humanities Series Number 48), Indiana University Press, (Bloomington), 1961.
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- Mill, J.S., An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy and of the Principal Philosophical Questions Discussed in his Writings (Second Edition), Longmans, Green, (London), 1865.
- Mill, J.S., Autobiography (Second Edition), Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, (London), 1873.
- (Mill claims (p.69) that, although he had read Brown’s Cause and Effect by 1822, he “did not read [Brown’s Lectures] until two or three years later”.)
- Mill, J.S., "Letter to Robert Barclay Fox, August 3, 1840", pp. 313–315 in Fox, C. (Pym, H.N. ed), Memories of Old Friends: Being Extracts from the Journals and Letters of Caroline Fox of Penjerrick, Cornwall, from 1835-1871, Edited by Horace N. Pym, Fourth Edition, To which are added Fourteen Original Letters from J.S. Mill Never Before Published, Volume II, Smith, Elder, & Co, (London), 1882.
- Mills, J.A., "Thomas Brown’s Theory of Causation", Journal of the History of Philosophy, Vol.22, No.2, (April 1984), pp. 207–227.
- Morris, P., M.D. [Lockhart, J. G], Peter's Letters to His Kinsfolk (The Third Edition): Volume One, W. Blackwood, (Edinburgh), 1819.
- Rand, B., "The Early Development of Hartley's Doctrine of Association", Psychological Review, Vol.30, No.4, (July 1923), pp. 306–321.
- Rands, A.C., "Thomas Brown's Theories of Association and Perception as They Relate to His Theories of Poetry", The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol.28, No.4, (Summer 1970), pp. 473–483.
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- Schopenhauer, A. The World as Will and Representation, Vol. II, Dover, 1966 ISBN 0-486-21762-0
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- Welsh, D., Account of the Life and Writings of Thomas Brown, M.D., Late Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, W. & C. Tait, (Edinburgh), 1825.
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